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Likkutei Dibburim
An Anthology of Talks by Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn of Lubavitch

Purim Seuda - 5701 (1941)

Translated by: Rabbi Uri Kaploun

Published and copyright © by Sichos In English
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Purim 5701 (1941) [1] At the Seudah

[New York] [2]

(From the notes of one of the audience.)

1.

Gut Yom-Tov: A happy festival to you all!

The festival of Purim [3] commemorates the saving of the Jewish body, through means that were recognized by all as a miracle of G-d.

Ever since the first redemption, the redemption from Egypt, G-d has blessed us with a variety of miracles, whether particular miracles for individual persons and individual families, or more general miracles wrought for a whole town or a whole country. Miracles that embraced the entire House of Israel were: the miracle of Purim in the year 3404 (357 B.C.E.), wrought on behalf of all the Jews who lived in the 127 provinces that comprised the empire of Achashverosh; and the miracle of Chanukkah that took place in the year 3622 (139 B.C.E.) in the Land of Israel.

Both these G-d-given miracles brought about a great Sanctification of the Divine Name, inasmuch as all the nations of the world witnessed the wonders that had been bestowed upon Israel. The two miracles differ, however, in that the miracle of Purim saved the body of the Jewish people; while the miracle of Chanukkah saved the spirit and morality of Jews.

2.

Every salvation comes in the wake of a time of distress, and every distress that strikes the Jewish people comes as a punishment for particular transgressions. That is to say: When Jews repent, G-d sends His salvation. His help not only removes the punishment: it also brings them a salvation [beyond that]. It goes without saying that the tribulations inflicted in punishment are proportionate to the transgressions, and the good fortune brought about by the salvation is proportionate to the repentance.

3.

The miraculous good fortune that saved the Jewish people at the time of Chanukkah came in the wake of the punitive suffering that they underwent at the hands of the Greeks - the result of the sins committed during the period of the Second Beis HaMikdash.

Though certain elements present in the First Beis HaMikdash were missing in the Second [4], the first 180 or 190 years of its existence were nevertheless a happy period for our people. At this time, however, they began to socialize with people of other nations, especially with the Greeks, among whose ranks they found learned individuals. [5]

Within a few years an assimilationist movement was underway. The Greeks benefited from this, and maintained friendly relations with the Jews for over twenty years, in the course of which they estranged them from the Torah and its mitzvos and from the Almighty. They addressed them (to quote the Sages) in this manner: "Inscribe it on the horn of an ox that you have no share in the G-d of Israel." [6] True enough, many Jews were prepared to sacrifice their very lives for the sake of the Torah and the mitzvos, but some remained on very close terms with the Greeks, despite the warnings of the truly towering personalities of that time.

On account of this transgression, the Almighty sent a grievous punishment - Antiochus the Wicked, who for five years disrupted the Temple service, set up an idol in the Sanctuary, profaned everything holy to Judaism, ravished and slaughtered many tens of thousands of Jewish families, deported thousands of Jews, and sold them into slavery.

4.

This dire suffering aroused the Jewish heart. The eternal spark of Judaism became revealed in an outcry of repentance, in a determined self-sacrifice for the observance of the Torah and the mitzvos. Men and women, old and young, allowed themselves to be martyred and burned for the sake of Kiddush HaShem, for the Sanctification of the Divine Name.

The Jewish heart now opened up. The entire Jewish people heeded the words of the tannaim, who explained them the reason for the dread punishment, and its intent - the punishment that G-d had brought upon them because of their desecration of the Shabbos, because of their treifah diet, because of their neglect of the laws of family purity. And the entire people, men and women, old and young, repented for all of these sins. They raised the education of their young to such a level that even very small children chose to be killed as Jews of unquestioning faith, rather than to live because they had bowed down to an idol by means of the ruse of picking up something from the floor - as in the episode of Chanah and her seven sons.

5.

The whole people of Israel rallied to the call of Mattisyahu the High Priest, "Mi LaHashem Eilai" ("Whoever is for G-d, join me!") [7]. Together they assembled under the holy banner that proclaimed, "Mi Komoichoh Boeilim Hashem" ("Who is like You among the mighty ones, O G-d?") [8], a phrase whose Hebrew initial letters form the word"Maccabee". They cried out, "Shema Yisrael Hashem Elokeinu Hashem Echod" ("Hear, O Israel, the L-rd our G-d, the L-rd is One") [9], and with those timeless words they overwhelmed the mighty legions of their enemies. With the unity of "Goi Echod Bo'oretz" ("the one nation on earth") [10], and through repentance and self-sacrifice for the Torah and its commandments, the Jewish people were granted the holy strength of "Hashem Echod" ("the one G-d"), and thereby conquered the bitter enemy of their religion, sanctified the Beis HaMikdash anew, and once again observed the one Torah that G-d gave our people.

To sum up: Socializing with the Greeks, studying their culture, desecrating Sabbaths and festivals, eating treifah food, neglecting the laws of family purity, - these were the sins of the Jews of that era. The spiritual destruction of the Beis HaMikdash, slaughter, slavery in exile, - these were the woes with which they were punished. And it was repentance and self-sacrifice that brought about the great salvation from Above - the miracle of Chanukkah.

6.

In the year 3392, during the Babylonian exile, the Jewish people were dispersed in many lands, including those ruled by Achashverosh. Over fifty years had passed since the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash, since the Jewish people had been torn away from their sacred home, where they used to see the miracles of the Beis HaMikdash and hear the words of the prophets. Now, however, they were scattered far and wide, both in lands where they were mistreated, and in lands where they were well treated because their qualities and skills were recognized as being of benefit.

7.

Besides being fickle by nature, Achashverosh was also arrogant, wise in his own eyes, and easy to anger. He was a mixture of good and evil, wisdom and foolishness. This we see in the conflicting opinions of our Sages as to whether he was "a wise king" or "a foolish king." [11]

During the reign of his father Darius and during the beginning of his own reign as well, the Jews throughout his provinces were profitably employed. As time went on, for reasons arising out of commerce and business friendships, they severed their connections with their life of Torah and mitzvos, and slipped into a worldly, luxury-seeking lifestyle. The Shabbos became more workaday, the observance of a kosher diet was taken more lightly, and the purity of family life became coarsened. Forgetting that they were the chosen people, the Jews of that period began to make light of the fact that G-d "has chosen us from among all nations and raised us above all tongues," [12] and began to live a free and easy life like that of any other nation. Mordechai Ha Yehudi [13] and the Prophet Malachi repeatedly warned their contemporaries that G-d does not tolerate such a lifestyle, and that he would punish them severely for it. They pointed out that if G-d's fury were to be vented on them and on their families, fraternizing with their gentile cronies would not help them out, nor would their affluence. Moreover, they drew their attention to the passages in the Torah that record G-d's words of rebuke [14]. The people's hearts, however, having waxed fat and dissolute, unfortunately blocked their hearing. Thus it was that even though Mordechai was one of the most distinguished figures in the royal palace, his admonitions regarding the observance of the Torah and its commandments were of no avail.

8.

While Achashverosh successfully engaged in battle on a number of fronts, his Jewish subjects participated energetically and profitably in the war effort, which earned them awards of gratitude and prominent positions in the administration.

In addition, one of the individuals whom Achashverosh admitted to his royal council was a person of lowly lineage, a barber in the public bathhouse, by the name of Haman, the son of Hamdasa. Through ambition, arrogance and guile, he found himself a place among the ranks of the king's advisers.

When Achashverosh returned victorious from the battlefront, he arranged huge banquets for all his subjects. His Jewish subjects too were invited by the council that the king had appointed to see to it that every guest be supplied with whatever food and drink his heart desired. These utterly treifah banquets, with the unbridled debauchery that accompanied them, brought increasing decadence upon the Jews. Hence, though the time of the Redemption was at hand, as the prophets had foretold, they wanted to hear nothing of it, laughing it off with insolent mockery. They were intoxicated by their wartime earnings, by their royal letters of appreciation. The grandest mansions were theirs. They grew fond of their undisciplined life - without Shabbos, without kashrus, without the mikveh, without tefillin, and so on - and rather enjoyed their generous helpings of earthy, fleshly living.

Any word of rebuke was shamelessly rejected. It was an era during which "the judges were on trial."[15] Self-assured by their prosperity, the rich addressed their observant brethren and the Sages in disrespectful and even disparaging language.

9.

Five years passed from that dark day on which Achashverosh had put his wife Vashti to death. In the meantime Esther had been made queen and, in accordance with Mordechai's directive, no one knew her ancestry or nationality. In the course of those five years, a number - perhaps the majority - of the Jews who lived well and happily in the kingdom enjoyed their luxuries, unrestrained in the slightest by the Torah and its commandments. They desecrated the Shabbos and the festivals; they ate meat that was treifah and the meat of animals that had died without kosher slaughtering; they lived as any other nation did; and they profaned authentically Jewish morality.

10.

Despite his manifold duties as one of the most eminent Jewish personalities of the capital city of the 127 provinces, despite his consequent contacts with the Torah communities of all the lands of the Diaspora as well as of Eretz Yisrael, and despite his high office in the royal palace, Mordechai devoted himself at all times to Jewish education.

As a leader, he recognized that this was the very foundation of Judaism. Realizing moreover that learning had to be transmitted through pious teachers, he chose such people to staff the Torah schools that he established - men who were able to focus all their energy on implanting in their pupils a belief in G-d, a love for the Torah, and a spirit of self-sacrifice for Jewish values. While the wealthy folk of his day were blithely engaged in their assimilatory concerns, Mordechai and his staff of teachers raised a large number of Jews who studied the Torah and observed the mitzvos, and they in turn brought up their children likewise.

In the course of the ten years during which Haman found his way into the ranks of officialdom, he managed - through trickery, opportunism, and the intervention of Satan - to smuggle himself into the innermost of royal circles, and to rise to positions of prominence. He was helped chiefly by his riches, for he used treasures that he had found to support the administration.

His investments on behalf of the government rose in value. In addition, on account of his humble beginnings, honor was of the greatest importance to him. The king accordingly appointed him the highest of his ministers, and decreed that all citizens, including his colleagues, were to bow down and kneel to him. This, at last, satisfied the arrogance of the vile vizier.

11.

The term that correctly describes the national origins of the Jewish people is Ivri ("Hebrew"), as in the verse that says, "And the refugee came and told Avram the Ivri." [16] This is the name by which Jews were known from the time of the Patriarch Avraham. It signifies that the Jewish people are the children of Avraham Avinu [17], whose identity hardly needs explaining.

Avraham Avinu was the first to make G-d's Name known to mankind. He taught that G-d is the Creator of the world and conducts its every detail [18], and taught men how to serve Him. Disregarding all physical danger, he advanced his holy work.

The title Ivri is a "crown of a good name" [19] that the Jewish people possesses. It denotes the lofty trait of self-sacrifice for the observance of the Divinely-given Torah and its commandments, at all times and in all lands.

This is how the people who bore this title lived their lives, generation after generation, men and women, old and young, with self-sacrifice in the face of formidable perils. This vigilant observance became weakened only in the times of the Kings of Judea and Israel, when the robust, thousand-year-old [20], Torah-and-mitzvos Ivri assumed a new countenance. In part he acquired a political soil and stature as a member of an independent nation.

From the very first day on which the seed of Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov were crowned with the esteemed title Ivri, they were "G-d's nation." [21] The whole world, even Amalek, knew that Jews - the seed of Avraham - were the chosen people, G-d's nation. But when the political Ivri arose, he proclaimed himself in the eyes of the world as a nation, a nation severed from G-d; such people proclaimed themselves as accomplished political experts, whose first move was to dismiss the Torah view altogether, and to replace certain areas of the Torah and its commandments by various alternatives. In this way two kinds of Ivri came into being - the Torah-and-mitzvos Ivri and the political Ivri.

This will enable us to understand the words of Yonah the Prophet:... "Vayomer aleihem Ivri onoichi"- " And he said to them, 'I am a Hebrew, and I stand in awe of G-d, the L-rd of the heavens."' [22] Finding the general term Ivri insufficient, Yonah had to add the significant explanatory words, "and I stand in awe of G-d, the L-rd of the heavens" - because in his day there already existed two kinds of Ivri, the genuine and the counterfeit. This was why Yonah had to add the distinguishing mark of yiras shamayim, standing in awe of heaven - to make it clear that he was one of the genuine Ivrim.

12.

Such a profanation on the part of the counterfeit Ivrim was more than the Jewish people could swallow. Accordingly, heartache notwithstanding, they utterly renounced the name Ivri, and crowned themselves with the name Yehudi ("Jew").

The name Yehudi not only repudiates the political Ivri who serves any kind of idol [23] that can advance his G-dless political work. In addition, it is the hallmark of mesirus nefesh that is mandated directly by the pintele Yid, the innermost spark of a Jew's soul, urging him to observe the commandments in practice and to despise the deceptive antics of those who deny our G-d and His law and His Torah, and His solemn promise to us of the ultimate Redemption.

13.

As one of the official advisers, Haman had many acquaintances among the political Hebrews; they wined and dined together, and enjoyed each other's company. He sensed no conflict of interest with those with whom he hobnobbed. There was no hint by which he could detect that they were of Jewish stock, nor did he know that they spoke Ivrit between themselves. They too bowed and kneeled before that villain, and were not troubled by his anti-Semitic religious slanders.

What Haman could not understand was why Mordechai was different from all the other Hebrews. After all, was Mordechai not also a political figure, an accomplished polyglot, a man who associated with the most influential personalities of the administration? Why, then, was he different from all the other Hebrews?

He received his answer only when his subordinates told him that Mordechai was a Jew, and explained him the real difference between an Ivri ("Hebrew") and a Yehudi ("Jew"). The name Ivri, they explained, is a political label. A person so described can even be an opponent to the Jewish religion, or even belong to a different faith. A name of this kind is no more than a label indicating the bearer's opinion. It means that in his opinion a particular country belongs to a particular nation, this opinion being unconnected with the speaker's religion or lineage. The name Yehudi, by contrast, exclusively denotes the authentic Jew, who believes in G-d and courageously observes the Torah and its mitzvos to the point of self-sacrifice.

With all his comradely feelings for the political Hebrew, Haman hated and loathed the genuine Jew. It was only at this point that he noticed that "Mordechai neither rose nor shuddered" [24] at his approach.

14.

There are two distinct kinds of honor with diverse motivations - esteem and fear. Honor that is motivated by esteem finds expression in a person's rising reverentially; honor that is motivated by fear finds expression in a shudder. And the Holy Tongue terms these two reactions "kom" ("rose") and "zoh" ("shuddered").

Haman was taken aback by the fact that Mordechai did not rise before him, and even more by the fact that he did not shudder. However deluded and intoxicated he may have been, he understood full well that the honor he was shown on all sides was prompted not by esteem but by fear. Having been given unlimited authority by Achashverosh to punish whomever he liked and by whatever means he pleased, he was assured of a full measure of honor by all those who feared him.

15.

The fact that Mordechai did not rise indicated his integrity; the fact that he did not shudder indicated his genuine faith and trust in G-d. In the most wretched and gloomy times of exile, when the counterfeit Hebrews had the gall to maintain that they represented the Jewish people; at a time when Haman was the royal adviser; - at a time such as this, Mordechai had the G-d-given strength to be cheerfully unbending. And just as Mordechai's understanding ignored Haman's political wiles, so too did his body ignore Haman's power to punish. What now surfaced was the genuinely Jewish [25] refusal to rise in deference or to shudder in the presence of Haman himself. And it was at this point that his mean and cruel heart flared up in a determination "to destroy [26], kill and annihilate all the Jews [27]."

The Yehudi that confronted him drilled holes in his equanimity; his Amalekite and Agagite ancestry brewed within him and gave him no rest.

With all his might he undertook a campaign to annihilate all "the Jews..., the nation of Mordechai,"[28] all the Sabbath-observers. [This may be seen from his plaint to Achashverosh that his Jewish subjects were forever shirking their civic duties by claiming:] "Today is Shabbos; today is Pesach!"[29] Accordingly, realizing the power of his money, Haman offered Achashverosh ten thousand talents of silver for the pack of Jews who lived in his empire.

16.

Even if Haman himself distinguished between lvri and Yehudi, intending to wipe out only the Yehudim, and not the counterfeit lvrim, the political sycophants, Haman's sons and associates drew no such distinction. They despised and persecuted the lvrim exactly as they did the Yehudim. They too were shown the door, and driven in disgrace out of all their positions of authority. They were not helped in the slightest by their unbridled conduct, their flattery and their entertainments. They were robbed of their wealth, their gold and silver, and their jewelry; they were spat on and driven out of their mansions, and deprived of their idols. They were reminded of the ancestry that they had forgotten and suppressed, and the woes that now confronted them were common to all the seed of Avraham Avinu, whether Yehudi or Ivri.

At that bitter time Mordechai reinforced his educational work. In the capital city of Shushan alone he assembled twenty-two thousand children who studied Torah and observed the mitzvos at great personal risk, and thereby demonstrated their pride in being Jewish.

All the Jews - all the Yehudim - without exception, men and women, old and young, the more learned and the less learned, were armed with a preparedness for self-sacrifice, ready to be slaughtered or burned for the observance of Shabbos, for the dietary laws, for the laws of family purity, and for tefillin. Proud to be Jews, they scorned Haman's band, the religious persecutors.

Seeing this, the Hebrews grasped the truth of Mordechai's warning years earlier, that they should not rely on their political tricks, their financial security and their social connections - for with one breath of G-d's fury the mighty politician becomes the merest fool, and the influential millionaire becomes the sorriest of paupers; they crumble physically, and even more, morally.

The earnest resoluteness of the self-sacrificing Jews awakened the inextinguishable Jewish spark in the Hebrews, too. They too now returned to the authentically Jewish life-giving wellspring of untainted faith in G-d and in the observance of the commandments. Many of them now renounced the false ideal whereby one could be a "Jew without G-d and without Torah and mitzvos "; they parted company with the political Hebrews, and began to observe Shabbos, the kosher dietary laws, the laws of family purity, tefillin, and so forth.

In a word, the spiritual tone of Jewry at large in Shushan, and in the 127 provinces as well, was caught up in a flame of self-sacrifice for the Torah and its commandments.

17.

In the meantime, Haman and his associates went ahead with his dark scheme to eliminate the Jews from all the lands of the kingdom. Being unable to decide on a date, he cast lots and arrived at the thirteenth of Adar. Accordingly, on the thirteenth of Nissan in the year 3404, a royal edict issued to all the 127 provinces decreed that the thirteenth of Adar, eleven months later, was the day on which all the nations of the empire were to liquidate all the Jews.

On the third day of the repentance that embraced the entire Jewish people, on the first day of Pesach in the year 3404, it was decided in the Heavenly Court that G-d would send His salvation to all the Jews of the empire.

The next day, as Mordechai was teaching some of his pupils the laws of kemitzah, they caught sight of Haman approaching their teacher.

Mordechai warned them: "Run away and escape from the hands of this man!"

But they cried out together: "We are with you, whether for life or for death!"[30]

Coming straight from the pure hearts of these tender Torah students, these words give us some measure of the degree of self-sacrifice that the Jews of that time had attained.

18.

There is a widely-known teaching that the name Yom HaKippurim means that Yom Kippur, the holy Day of Atonement, is "like Purim."[31] Without the explanation given in Chassidus, this baffling comparison would appear to be incomprehensible.

Two goats [32] figured in the service in the Beis HaMikdash on Yom Kippur, one for a sin offering and one for Azazel. They had to be identical in all respects - in color, height and value. The determination as to which of them was to be a sin offering and which for Azazel was made by lottery, a determination that derives from a lofty source indeed.

Knowing this, and knowing too that the Yehudi-Jews [33] were highly esteemed in the eyes of G-d, Haman cast lots, hoping through this means to hit upon the most suitable date for the execution of his design.

He erred seriously, however, by not evaluating how dearly G-d loves His people, who are described as "G-d's children." [34] He did not correctly evaluate the capacity for self-sacrifice that resides in the heart of a Jew. He was incapable of understanding the cataclysm caused Above by repentance and self-sacrifice. And indeed, as events proved, G-d sent His people a great redemption - the miracle of Purim, thereby saving simultaneously the body of the Yehudi-Jew and his soul.

19.

To sum up: Jews became sundered from the Torah and its commandments, desiring thereby to become an independent people instead of G-d's people; there came into being a species of intentionally rebellious Hebrew, with neither faith nor Torah and mitzvos, who tarnished the name Ivri; at this point Jews renounced this name, assuming instead the name Yehudi, with its connotation of self-sacrifice for the observance of the Torah and its commandments; Haman and his collaborators displaced the Hebrews, too, with scorn and disgrace, ruining their lives both physically and morally. Finally, the steadfast courage and self-sacrifice of the Yehudi-Jews evoked the Jewish spark in the Ivri-Jews as well, arousing them to find their way back to Judaism, and thereby bringing about a deliverance for the whole of Jewry; and the pure self-sacrifice in the hearts of Jewish children paved the way for the downfall of Haman and his sons.

20.

Concerning the miracle of Purim it is written: "And these days are recalled and observed throughout every generation, every family, every province, and every city; and these days of Purim will not fail from among the Jews, nor will their memory perish from their seed." [35]

It is utterly superfluous to spell out the meaning of these words; everyone knows and understands full well what is being said here. It is, however, vital to note two things: (a) the dual expression - that "these days of Purim will not fail from among the Jews(Yehudim);" and: "nor will their memory perish from their seed"; (b) the miracle of Purim requires Yehudim, Jews with self-sacrifice for the Torah and its commandments.


What the world is now going through [36] should remind us Jews of the ancient epoch of Haman, which is being repeated today with greater intensity. A certain portion of our people have forgotten that they are "G-d's nation." Indeed, "They have said to G-d, 'Depart from us,"' [37] and they do not desire to know His ways. [38] There has arisen an Ivri-Jew, without faith and without Torah and mitzvos. People have spurned and forgotten their own roots; they have forgotten that we are in exile.

The Ivri-Jews of Haman's days welcomed their life in exile with open arms and songs of joy. They did not want to know that the time of redemption was fast approaching. Being foolishly involved in their physical desires, they wanted to hear nothing of redemption, and scoffed at Mordechai's warnings and Malachi's prophecies. This was a period during which "the judges were on trial." [39] Anyone with a bit of money addressed the leading Torah personalities of the day in the basest and most presumptuous manner. And when the crisis came, the political Ivri-Jews and luxury-seeking assimilationists saw and felt what value there was in politics, and what security there was in wealth.

21.

Everything in the situation of world Jewry today is as it was then. We have the Hamans; we have the political Ivri-Jews; we have the luxury-seeking assimilationists who feel secure in their wealth; and we have a certain proportion of Yehudi-Jews; - but we are lacking a Mordechai. Even worse, in other countries in general and in this country [40] in particular, we are suffering from the malady of "judges on trial." People do not want to hear what their rav has to say: they want him to say what sounds right to them.

The Jews of all lands are in an ocean of suffering. Those who are abroad are in a fire; we here are near the fire. People are doing many fine things to help our brothers overseas, such as giving charity, but this is not all that needs to be done. The main thing that needs to be done is teshuvah, repentance.

We must look the truth squarely in the eye, without self-delusion and without vain self-consolation. Everyone should understand that the suffering of world Jewry today is a voice from heaven calling upon Jews to do teshuvah and to return to Jewish observance, to the pure Yiddishkeit of the Torah and its commandments; it is a call to reject and uproot the foolish delusion that political cleverness will help us.

In numerous countries abroad this suffering has aroused Jewish hearts. Very, very many individuals have perceived the true meaning of this call from heaven and have begun to observe the Torah and the mitzvos, such as Shabbos, the dietary laws, the laws of family purity, tefillin, and so forth.

22.

In the face of the greatest danger, Jews must not despair. In today's extraordinarily terrible situation, too, Jews must be steadfast in their hope and trust in G-d. On no account must one be satisfied with physical weaponry alone, nor rely only on mortal means of deliverance. May G-d grant strength to those who are defending right; they must be supported by every means possible. But we Jews must also utilize our eternal, dependable, Divinely-promised weapon - "If you follow My laws," [41] by observing Shabbos, the dietary laws, the laws of marital purity, tefillin, and the commandments in general.

Jews must not despair; one must not show any weakness. We are speaking at a gathering of chassidim. Early in the times of the Alter Rebbe, Tikkun Chatzos used to be done publicly. Later on, as Chassidus became more widely disseminated, it came to be done privately. As the Tzemach Tzedek once said, "One should weep one's fill privately, and go out to the congregation with a little dance." Chassidim know that one must not fall into despair. One must know the truth, and do what ought to be done. One ought to study Torah, study Chassidus, daven, arouse one's fellow, and make sure that one speaks about topics in Chassidus.

Describing Avraham Avinu on his way to the altar with his son Yitzchak, the Torah says, "vayeilchu shneihem yachdov"-" And the two of them went together." [42] After Yitzchak knew [their mission] the Torah again says "together" [43]. For three days they walked. What did they do in the course of those three days? Obviously - they studied Chassidus, did a little dance, and sang a niggun. A father a hundred years old has a son, a son like Yitzchak, moreover, and leads him to the altar with a dance!

That is how things should be with chassidim, and with Jews in general - never to fall into despair, and to know the truth.

May G-d send an all-encompassing deliverance for all of Jewry very, very soon, Amen.

23.

Our army consists of the little children in the Torah schools [44] the same children whose self-sacrificing outcry [45] led to Haman's downfall. Unfortunately however, there are very few such children in this country, for little effort is expended in inculcating self-sacrifice.

A large proportion of the teachers in the Torah schools [46] do not observe the mitzvos: they do not put on tefillin and do not observe Shabbos. How can such teachers implant faith and self-sacrifice for Yiddishkeit in young hearts?

Among gentiles there are upright believers, but these teachers turn their pupils into atheists, haters of Jewish religion and observance.

Every father and mother must know that the fate of their child - whether or not he is going to remain a faithful Jew - lies in the hands of his teacher, and if that teacher desecrates the Shabbos and does not put on tefillin, they are leading their children (G-d forbid) to apostasy.

A list must be published of the Talmud Torahs whose teachers are devout, and those Talmud Torahs whose teachers are not observant must also be made known publicly.

A melamed who desecrates the Shabbos and does not put on tefillin and does not observe the dietary laws and so on, and so too the parents who entrust their children into the hands of such teachers, - they are morally and religiously the murderers of these children.

24.

Kosher Jewish children are those whose parents observe taharas hamishpachah, the laws of marital purity. These are the children who can and will go out to greet Mashiach.

There are many fathers and mothers who say that they hold that there is no need for immersion in a kosher mikveh.

It certainly takes gall for people who are not knowledgeable in Torah scholarship to take the liberty of holding that they have the right to air their opinions in such Torah questions. If they were to take such a liberty in any scholarly field in the world without first having mastered it, they would be taken to be out of their minds.

In the first place, such people are thereby advertising the fact that they are the world's greatest fools. It is the opinion of Rashi, Rambam [47], and all the tannaim, amoraim and geonim that a Jewish woman must be rendered pure only in a ritually valid mikveh; those who are ignorant in Torah matters opine otherwise. Such a stance is not only foolish, but an effrontery as well.

25.

You say that you do not believe that a Jewish woman must purify herself in a kosher mikveh. Well, begging your pardon, I am telling you openly and publicly that your statement that you do not believe is a lie. You do believe in this and in the Torah and the mitzvos as all Jews do. Your statement that you do not believe is only a pretext, an unfounded retort. You do believe.

A pure belief in G-d and in the Torah and its commandments is present in every son and daughter of Israel, and it is present in you as in every other Jew.

When a child becomes ill, G-d forbid, you hurry off to shul to have someone say a Mi SheBeirach. You cry out into the Aron Kodesh: "Master of the universe, have pity and heal our child!"

Your anguish and your tears break one's heart, Out of the love of a fellow Jew one should certainly be a partner to your pain, and pray that G-d have compassion on you and cure your child. But how can one face Him with one's requests, when you do not want to teach your children His Torah, and when you do not want to observe His commandments of family purity, Shabbos, the dietary laws, tefillin, and so forth? You yourselves are answerable for the lives of your children.

Jewish women should form committees with names such as "The Purity of the Daughters of Israel," [48] with the aim of actively publicizing the idea of immersion in a kosher mikveh, through meetings and addresses. Written explanations should be published of the obligations of the Jewish woman, of the heavy responsibility that she carries for the health of her children.

And the Almighty will most certainly bless you and your husbands with fine, healthy children, and we will all be able to participate in happy occasions in your families.

26.

In every aspect of Jewish life, and in every aspect of the inborn characteristics of a Jew, we see how the Torah and the people of Israel are one thing. The Torah teaches us what the people of Israel is, and the people of Israel understand the Torah.

In Tractate Shabbos [49], the Gemara discusses zechus avos (lit., "the merit of the Patriarchs"), which Tosafos distinguishes from bris avos ("the covenant with the Patriarchs"). The Gemara concludes that not only has bris avos not ceased, but even zechus avos has not ceased.

Though both concepts relate to the sons and daughters of the Patriarchs in all the generations until the coming of Mashiach, there is a difference between them.

Bris avos signifies G-d's oath (as it were) to the Patriarchs - Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov - that their children and children's children to the end of all generations would be the chosen people, and that He had crowned us with the title, "G-d's nation."

27.

At a time when a certain heavenly edict hovered over the Jewish people, the Almighty (as it were) said: "Be they as they may, they are My sons." [50] Moreover, "to exchange them for any other nation, that is impossible." [51] This is the oath that G-d took in bris avos, the covenant with the Patriarchs.

Zechus avos denotes the purity [52] that the Patriarchs brought to the world by expounding the concept of faith in G-d, so that this pure merit should protect their children and children's children to the end of all generations, in all lands and at all times.

Both the covenant of the Patriarchs and the merit of the Patriarchs are imprinted in the soul of a Jew, and they find expression in the distinctive nature of his character, irrespective of status and outlook.

Every son and daughter of Israel harbors an innermost spark that remains purely and clearly Jewish at all times and in all circumstances. Its Divine power is limitless. It wreaks such a cataclysm in a man's life that from the lowliest Ivri, bereft of Torah and mitzvos, the loftiest self-sacrificing Yehudi can come into being.

28.

What I have to tell you from my over forty years of experience and observation will reveal nothing novel; it will only point out certain things.

In the course of over forty years of public activity it has fallen to my lot to meet in various ways - and in various cases to come in closer contact, in counsel and in deed - with men of every species of outlook and opinion. They have ranged from the most extremely strongwilled bourgeois to the most extreme labor leader; from the most G-d-fearing of punctilious mitzvah -observers to the most lightminded of Jews; from the typical artless believer to the outright atheist; - and in all of them I have seen the covenant of the Patriarchs and the pure merit of the Patriarchs.

Here is a little trait that everyone sees and knows. When one converses with the greatest atheist - one who desecrates the Shabbos, eats treifah food, and so on - and in passing one mentions his parents, then regardless of his nonbelieving opinions and his irreligious lifestyle, he becomes captivated by the subject of his lineage, and tells how he is a son, a grandson, a greatgrandson, a nephew, a relative, a relative umpteen times removed [53], of so-and-so, the rabbinic author who once lived in such-and-such a township.

This is the covenant of the Patriarchs and the pure merit of the Patriarchs that is the birthright of all the sons and daughters of Israel.

29.

With this zechus avos, this pure merit of the Patriarchs, one can awaken the hearts of all Jews in all countries and at all times. One should speak to each son and daughter of Israel until the innermost Jewish spark is aroused, and the self-sacrificing Yehudi becomes visible.

True enough, among our people there are individuals of whom it may be said, "Their heart is gross with fat," [54] individuals who are members of the You-Grew-Fat-Thick-and-Gross Club [55], who do not want to listen to whatever is said about the Torah and its commandments.

But the truth shatters iron - when one speaks truthfully from a heart that says "All Jews are comrades," [56] and when one explains that "All Jews are guarantors for one another," [57] and that we Jews are all in a ship that is in the middle of a tempest on an ocean of distress, so that when one of us sins against our heavenly Father and thereby drills a hole under his seat, the whole ship is in jeopardy.

30.

Jews of America! You are doing a great deal for our brothers abroad, and may the Almighty accordingly grant you and your families success in all your endeavors. You must know, however, that the calamities that Jews are undergoing overseas are not accidental. They are the result of an edict from heaven, a punishment for faults in which you too have a share - desecrating Shabbos, eating treifah food, marital impurity, and so forth. The charity that you give is not yet the whole story. One also needs repentance and prayer [58], for all three together quash severe verdicts,

Sons and daughters of Israel in America! All categories of people, from the typical worker or householder to the multimillionaire and Ivri-Jew, are looking with eyes agape and can see what has come of our brothers and sisters overseas. All categories of people there have been crushed.

Do not allow yourselves to be persuaded that this has happened only to those Jews. Do not be deluded into thinking that we Jews can be helped only by mortals and politics. The "wise and understanding people" [59] must not allow itself to be influenced by such foolishness. We Jews will be helped by repentance, Torah and mitzvos.

31.

People ask why G-d's fury was poured out overseas in such countries where there were more Torah-observant and G-d-fearing Jews than in America. These questioners forget that a slap is given specifically in the face. The pious are suffering on account of the others. The promissory note that says that "All Jews are guarantors for one another" is being paid up in lives. And looking at our brethren overseas, American Jews ought to understand also that which - because of the mitzvah of loving one's fellow - one's lips dare not utter.

32.

Jews of America and its neighboring countries! You are being summoned by G-d's call to repentance. This moment is far more serious than can be imagined. You are being called from heaven to pay up your ancient debt on the promissory note that says that "All Jews are comrades" and that "All Jews are guarantors for one another" - by observing Shabbos, the dietary laws and the laws of family purity, and by putting on tefillin and fulfilling the other practical mitzvos.

It is painfully difficult to say what I have to say. My unbounded love for all Jews makes it exceedingly difficult for me to speak - but on no account may I dishonor the duty that I owe to [that very mitzvah of] ahavas Yisrael. Imagine a man who finds that he himself has to carry out extremely painful surgery on a brother whom he dearly loves. Yet operate he must, in order to save his brother's life.

Brother Jews! You are being put to an earnest test. The trial is a great one, and the Evil Inclination with his persuasively evil collaborators is even greater. You find it difficult to observe Shabbos, the dietary and marital laws, tefillin, and so forth - but it is preferable to do all of these things out of one's own free will than to do them (G-d forbid) with a broken spirit.

Sons and daughters of Israel! My heart aches on account of various stern expressions that I was compelled to use in order to speak the truth as it is. In cases such as these that involve danger to life, no matter how difficult or how painful it may be, the truth must be articulated clearly and explicitly. It is my request, a wish from the depths of my heart, that G-d open your eyes so that you will see the truth and repent in actual practice, as mentioned above. And then may you and we and all our people together be privileged to welcome the Righteous Mashiach with joyous hearts.

On the eve of the deliverance from Babylonia came the dire decrees of Haman and his downfall, and on the eve of the ultimate Redemption, which will be an all-encompassing deliverance, we have (heaven preserve us!) these awesome decrees.

May the Almighty fortify the understanding of all of us so that we will grasp what formidable danger lurks over our people. May the countries that have (thank G-d) not been destroyed remain intact, and may their inhabitants be enabled to greet Mashiach in their own unscarred homes. May the Almighty grant us the strength needed for proper repentance, which must - and will, with G-d's help - bring about the ultimate Redemption speedily and in our own days, Amen.

Footnotes:

  1. (Back to text) 5701 (1941): The publishers prefaced the first appearance of the Yiddish original of this Chapter as follows: "At this time, when the Rebbe demands that we undertake the sacred task of saving Jewish souls, as set out briefly in his manifesto; when we have been fortunate in hearing words of arousal and of rebuke that should and must penetrate one's very heart; especially now, when world events clearly point in the direction of the birthpangs (May we be spared them!) that precede the coming of Mashiach, to borrow the Rebbe's words; when the Rebbe gives us his fatherly warning, and entreats every Jew and Jewess to return to the observance of the Torah and the mitzvos; - at this time we consider it vital, for the benefit of Jewry at large, to publish an account (based on the notes of one of those present) of the Rebbe's holy words on this subject at the seudah of Purim 5701 (1941).

    "With Torah greetings, in a spirit of the love of one's fellow Jew, and in the hope of immediate Redemption,

    Machne Israel"

  2. (Back to text) [New York]: Having finally left Warsaw for Riga on 5 Teves 5700 (1939), the Rebbe arrived in New York on 9 Adar Sheni (19 March 1940). One of his aides kept a diary in which he recorded details of the Rebbe's voyage and arrival, which are reprinted - together with a telling excerpt from the Rebbe's own diary - as a prologue to Sefer HaMamaarim, Kayitz Hei Taf-Shin (Summer 5700/1940; Kehot, N.Y., 1955; Heb.).

  3. (Back to text) The festival of Purim: See the Book of Esther.

  4. (Back to text) Missing in the Second: Tractate Yoma 21b.

  5. (Back to text) The teachers of these scholars had been educated by Jews.

  6. (Back to text) Inscribe it: Talmud Yerushalmi, Tractate Chagigah 2:2.

  7. (Back to text) Whoever is for G-d: Ex.32:26.

  8. (Back to text) Who is like You: Ex. 15:11.

  9. (Back to text) Hear, O Israel: Deut. 6:4.

  10. (Back to text) The one nation: II Sam. 7:23.

  11. (Back to text) A wise...king: Tractate Megillah 12a.

  12. (Back to text) Has chosen us: Evening Kiddush for festivals; Siddur. p. 250.

  13. (Back to text) Mordechai HaYehudi: Lit., "Mordechai the Jew."

  14. (Back to text) Passages...of rebuke: In the original Yid./Heb., "Di Toichochoh Parshiyos", i.e., Lev. 26:14-41 and Deut. 28:15-68.

  15. (Back to text) Judges were on trial: In the original,"Shfoit Hashoiftim". On the pshat level, this phrase ( Ruth 1:1) means "when the Judges judged"; on the level of derush (Tractate Bava Basra I5b), it means "when the Judges were judged."

  16. (Back to text) And the refugee came: Gen. 14:13.

  17. (Back to text) Avraham Avinu: Lit., "our father Avraham."

  18. (Back to text) Conducts its every detail: In the original,"B'Hashgochah...Protis".

  19. (Back to text) Crown of a good name: Tractate Avos 4:13.

  20. (Back to text) Thousand-year-old: The figure is hyperbolic.

  21. (Back to text) "G-d's nation": In the original,"Am Hashem"; Num. 11:29.

  22. (Back to text) I am a Hebrew: Jonah 1:9.

  23. (Back to text) The name Yehudi...repudiates...any kind of idol: Cf. the teaching, "Kol hakoifer ba'avoidah zarah nikroh Yehudi"-"Whoever repudiates idolatry is called a Yehudi " (Tractate Megillah 13a).

  24. (Back to text) Neither rose nor shuddered: Esther 5:9.

  25. (Back to text) The genuinely Jewish: In the original, the adjective meaning "Jewish" is not spelled "Yiddisher" as expected, but"Yehudisher".

  26. (Back to text) To destroy: Esther 3:13.

  27. (Back to text) All the Jews: In the original,"es kol hayehudim".

  28. (Back to text) The Jews..., the nation of Mordechai: Esther 3:6.

  29. (Back to text) Today is Shabbos: Tractate Megillah 13b.

  30. (Back to text) We are with you: Cf. Esther Rabbah 10:4.

  31. (Back to text) Like Purim: A play on the similarity between "kippurim" ("atonement") and "k'purim" ("like Purim").

  32. (Back to text) Two goats: Lev. 16:5ff.

  33. (Back to text) Yehudi -Jews: See above, Section 12.

  34. (Back to text) G-d's children: In the original,"Bonim lamakom"; Tractate Avos 13:14.

  35. (Back to text) And these days: Esther 9:28.

  36. (Back to text) What the world is now going through: The date was 1941.

  37. (Back to text) They have said...from us: Job 21:14.

  38. (Back to text) And they do not...His ways: Ibid., paraphrased.

  39. (Back to text) The judges: See above, Section 8.

  40. (Back to text) This country: The U.S.A.

  41. (Back to text) If you follow My laws: Lev. 26:3.

  42. (Back to text) And the two of them went together: Gen. 22:6, and see Rashi there.

  43. (Back to text) Again says "together": Loc. cit., v. 8, and see Rashi there.

  44. (Back to text) The little children...schools: In the original, "tinokos shel beis rabbon" (lit., "the little children in their teacher's house"); cf. "The world endures only by virtue of the breath of the little children in the Torah schools" (Tractate Shabbos 119b).

  45. (Back to text) Self-sacrificing outcry: See Section 17, above.

  46. (Back to text) Teachers in the Torah schools: In the original, "melamdim in di Talmud Torahs."

  47. (Back to text) Rashi, Rambam: These two names are of course only representative.

  48. (Back to text) The Purity...Israel: In the original, Taharas Bnos Yisrael.

  49. (Back to text) Tractate Shabbos: 55a.

  50. (Back to text) Be they as they may: Tractate Kiddushin 36a.

  51. (Back to text) To exchange them: Midrash Rus Rabbah, Pesichta 4.

  52. (Back to text) Zechus...denotes...purity: The noun zechus, commonly translated "merit", is here to be understood as if vocalized zachus, i.e., as if deriving from the adjective zach ("pure").

  53. (Back to text) Relative umpteen times removed: In the original, shishi bishvi'i.

  54. (Back to text) Their heart is gross: Ps. 119:70.

  55. (Back to text) Members of the You-Grew-Fat...Club: In the whimsical Eng./Yid./Heb. original,"members foon der shomanto oviso kosiso chevra".

  56. (Back to text) All Jews are comrades: Cf. Tractate Chagigah 26a.

  57. (Back to text) All Jews are guarantors: Tractate Shevuos 39a.

  58. (Back to text) Charity...repentance...prayer: In the original,"tzedokoh, teshuvah, tefillah"; cf. Machzor for Rosh HaShanah, p. 144.

  59. (Back to text) Wise and understanding people: Deut. 4:6.
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